Dried herbs can lend their signature flavors to all kinds of dishes and fresh herbs add a fresh burst of brightness to your cooking. Here's how to make the most of whatever kind of herbs you've got, fresh or dried.
Dried herbs offer distinct benefits, like you can add dried herbs to a long braise without worry, they won't turn bitter, or create a dry spice rub. They also have an exponentially longer shelf life compared to fresh herbs. Just note that just like ground spices, dried herbs are prone to losing their efficacy if stored improperly. Keep them away from light, heat, air, and moisture.
To test the potency of your dried herbs, pinch the herbs between your fingers and smell them. If there is a strong aroma, you should feel good about using them in your cooking. If they don't smell like like much, they aren't going to add much to your cooking. Properly stored dried herbs will be at their best aromatic-and-vibrant selves for about six months.
Add fresh herbs near the end of cooking, and dried herb at the beginning. For garnishing, add fresh tender herbs off heat, for example, in a slow-cooked braise, add rosemary, oregano, or other sturdy fresh herbs about 30 minutes to 1 hour before the braise is done, but not earlier, since fresh herbs can turn bitter if cooked for too long.
Some herbs like thyme, tarragon and basil, dry quite well. Others like cilantro and parsley, add a nice color, but don’t pack much flavor, so they are typically better used fresh.
If a recipe calls for 1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary, substitute it for about 1 tsp dried. The reverse also applies. Dried herbs are considered more compact in flavor = use less.
Let's take a look of some of the most common AeroGarden herbs and recommendations when to use fresh or dried.
Basil loses some of its flavor when dried. Dried Thai basil is more assertive and works well for dishes with longer cooking times rather than dried Genovese basil. If using dried or fresh basil, add it at the end of cooking so that the flavor remains vibrant.
The flavor of dill is dull when dried, but the color is great. That means you can scale up the one-third rule to one-half, or even higher. (If your recipe calls for a tbsp fresh dill, start with ½ tbsp dried.)
You can freeze-dry chives to maintain that sweet onion flavor and keep the bright green color. Use them as a garnish or stir into dips, sauces and dressings.
Sadly cilantro loses a lot of its flavor when dried. We recommend using fresh cilantro whenever possible. You can always freeze fresh cilantro for a later use.
The flavor of dried marjoram is very pronounced, more so than fresh. A hardy herbs that can stand up to longer cooking times, so feel free to add it to a braise or grind it into a spice powder.
Mint holds its flavor very well when dried. It is one of those herbs that are great fresh or dried!
Oregano is one of the herbs that you see more commonly dried than fresh. It holds its flavor very well. When using fresh you get that earthy, grassy notes, but if you cook with it too soon, it can turn bitter.
Parsley loses a lot of its flavor when dried. Use fresh whenever possible or make a sauce like chimichurri or salsa verde and store for later use.
Rosemary keeps a strong flavor when dried and it can stand up to longer cooking times. It is one of those herbs that can come in a variety of dried styles like whole needles or powder. If a recipe calls for 1 tbsp fresh rosemary needles/sprig, substitute with 1 tsp dried needles. Dried rosemary needles are perfect for slow roasts and braises and ground rosemary has the most surface area exposed, so the herbaceous, piney flavor compounds are extremely potent.
Sage follows the same rules as rosemary.
Tarragon loses some flavor, but is not mild when dried. Add fresh to your dish near the end of cooking so it remains vibrant.
Dried thyme is very concentrated and can stand up to longer cooking times. When using fresh, add at the end when cooking.
So there you go, all these herbs have their benefits when fresh or dried. Check out our other article on How do I harvest, dry, or store my herbs.
You can build your own Custom Herb Seed Pod Kits here and experiment with cooking fresh vs dried!